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Image of a Solar Panel arrayThe MassDOT Solar PV Energy Program intends to build multiple ground-mount solar PV generation facilities within the state highway layout throughout Massachusetts.  A minimum of 6 Mega Watts (MW) of solar power generation systems will be provided from this project.

This solar initiative is driven by the agency’s desire to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by promoting renewable energy generation
  • Create energy savings by procuring electricity at a favorable rate
  • Generate revenue by utilizing underutilized state land
  • Support the Commonwealth’s green and clean economy

Public and Private Partnership

P3 ImageMassDOT utilizes the “public & private partnership” business model to implement the program.  Under the agreement, the awarded contractor leases pre-approved MassDOT’s properties to develop, design, construct, commission, operate and maintain the solar facilities. Conjunctly, MassDOT purchases power directly from the developer at fixed rates for the duration of the lease.  The developer retains all incentives associated with the solar power generation, including tax incentives and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC), while MassDOT obtains all net metering credits.

This arrangement allows the state to benefit financially in multiple ways:

  • Zero upfront capital cost for the state
  • Full utilization of federal tax incentives through the private partner
  • A favorable electricity rate schedule for the contract period
  • Energy savings through net metering
  • Lease revenue for the developer’s use of state properties

Northampton Pilot Project

The Northampton solar pilot project sits on a parcel just 90 feet from the Highway District 2 administrative building along Route I-91. The system is comprised of 325 solar panels with a total rated output of 80 kW DC.  After an accelerated project development and construction period, the system started producing power in November, 2012.  The solar power is used on site only to offset the demand of the adjacent D2 building.  It currently provides for about a quarter of this D2 facility’s annual power demand.

Highway Right-of-Way Solar Project

In the summer of 2013, MassDOT issued a Request for Response to procure solar PV generation facilities at multiple parcels within the State highway layout with a minimal of 6 MW aggregated capacity.  After a three-staged selecting process, MassDOT awarded the project to Ameresco, Inc. in June, 2014 for providing the best-value proposal.

Solar PV arrays of 6 MW capacity can generate 7,800,000 kW hours of electricity per year, which is equivalent to the average power consumption of 1,285 homes in Massachusetts.  Replacing such amount of electricity in the current ISO-NE grid with solar power will lead to 6.8 million pounds of CO2 emission reduction annually.

MassDOT also expects considerable financial benefits from this project.  Under the negotiated power purchase rates and the current Massachusetts net metering policy, this project is projected to generate a total of at least $15 million in savings/revenue (aggregated cash flow) over the 20-year contract period. The realized savings will depend on the actual power production and the net metering credit rates at the given time.

Project Sites

Phase I includes a total of ten parcels, which are further divided into two groups (five in each group) based on utility service area, regulatory constraint and construction readiness.  Phase IA sites entered commercial operation in August and September of 2015. Phase IB sites are currently under active development for town permits and design completion.  Construction mobilization at these sites is expected to take place in the spring of 2016, pending on the net metering rulemaking progress by the state legislature.  The table below summarizes the built or planned capacity, projected power output, and CO2 reduction benefit of each site.

Phase

Location

Installed Capacity (kW DC)

Projected Annual Output (kWh)

CO2 Emission Reduction (lbs)

Number of Homes Supplied 

Project Completion

Phase IA

(Eversource)

Framingham I90 Interchange 13 N

649

845,647

737,404

121

September, 2015

Framingham I90 Interchange 13 S

649

845,647

737,404

121

September, 2015

Framingham I90 WB Service Plaza

318

417,216

363,812

60

August, 2015

Natick I90 WB Embankment

271

355,552

310,041

51

August, 2015

Plymouth Route 3 Exit 5

567

728,028

634,840

104

September, 2015

Phase IB

(National

Grid)

Salisbury, District 4 Depot

649

845,647

736,840

121

Fall, 2016 (depending on the net metering cap availability)

Stockbridge I90 @ Interlaken East 1

649

845,647

736,840

121

Stockbridge I90 @ Interlaken East 2

417

472,711

472,711

78

Stockbridge I90 @ Interlaken West

649

845,647

736,840

121

West Stockbridge I90 Exit 1

649

845,647

736,840

121

Total

5,467

7,125,967

6,213,843

1,022


Due to regulatory and site condition constraints, the attainable capacity of the ten sites totaled 5.47 MW DC.  Presently, MassDOT and Ameresco are developing three Phase II sites, with the intention to achieving or surpassing the goal of a minimal 6 MW solar PV generation capacity.

Additional Resources

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs renewable energy
The MBTA energy initiatives
Renewable Energy at Massport
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